September 15: Mandarin School

Hello again! In my last post, I wrote a little bit about a lot of things. Today, I thought I would start expanding on those topics with the main reason I’m in Taiwan: Mandarin (Chinese) school!

Daily Schedule

At school

I have my main Chinese class every morning at 8:10am. It’s two hours long. In this class, we use a textbook that teaches vocabulary, grammar, and reading. Then in class, we use the dialogues and stories from the textbook to practice speaking. A majority of the time in class we work on discussion and my teacher calls on individual students to answer questions.

After my Chinese class in the mornings, I have a lot of options I can choose from. They include: studying in the library, taking a big group class, or leaving school for the day. I am required to complete a certain number of hours outside of class each month either in the library or taking big group classes (this month, I need 20 extra hours). The library is primarily a study space (not filled with books), but there are also computers with listening and reading exercises. Big group classes are held in an auditorium and have a variety of topics. This semester, they have: different conversation classes, singing class, character classes, movies, TV dramas, and a few others!

It doesn’t seem like a huge chunk of time – 10 hours of class plus approximately 5 extra hours each week, but there’s also homework.

Homework/Studying

Studying at a coffee shop

My teacher expects us to come to class prepared everyday. This means looking at the daily schedule and preparing. If we are starting a new chapter, you should know the new vocabulary before coming into class. That way, when we do the reading and discussion for the day, we don’t have to slow down as much to go over vocabulary. We also have homework assigned to us. The main types of homework are: grammar practice, writing sentences to practice grammar, completing pages in a workbook, writing essays, and doing projects. We also have a test for each chapter and 2 dictation* quizzes per chapter. I study for a minimum of 4 hours each day.

Dictation (聽寫): my teacher will read a sentence and we have to write the sentence down in characters. Think of a spelling test for little kids, but it’s characters and full sentences. Here’s an example sentence: 聼演唱會當然要去現場,大家一起唱,一起跳,整個體育館都在震動。(Translation: Of course, you have to go listen to a concert in person, everyone sings together, dances together, the whole stadium is shaking.)

Speaking Chinese in Taiwan

I have been trying to figure out how to describe my Chinese level. Since it’s not something I talk about often, I wanted to try to explain what I can and cannot do in Chinese so you can get a better idea of why I’m in school studying. Basically, I’m at a conversational level.

Things I can doThings I can’t do
Have my entire Chinese class in Chinese (no English explanations)Order food at a restaurant (since I’m not used to doing this, I don’t know a lot of the food vocabulary)
Order coffee or bubble tea and answer all of the questions (ice amount, sugar amount, hot/cold, size, here/to go, etc.)
-My go to coffee order is a medium iced vanilla latte with “less” ice and sometimes half sugar
Have in-depth conversations with complicated and very specific vocabulary (ex: different university majors/jobs, sorting the recycling, politics, etc.)
Have normal conversations with my friends, roommates, and classmatesRead difficult advertisements
Read novels meant for young adults and understand enough words to understand the storyWrite a significant number of characters from memory – I’m working on it though every day by writing for hours and hours
Attend advanced Chinese lectures and understand the entire lectureBe able to say exactly what I want to say in a conversation without mistakes or scrambling for words

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